Alexandra Kidd is one of Sydney’s best-known interior designers and a local Potts Point resident.
I recently spoke to Alex about what inspires her, what makes good design and why Potts Point is so special to her.
What inspired you to become a designer?
I was fortunate because I always knew I wanted to become a designer. When I was growing up my mother was obsessive about cleaning the house each Saturday and, as part of this, she would move things around. I noticed how this would change the feeling of the space and also how I felt. So in a way, it was ingrained in me that our environment shapes who we are and how we think and feel. I always wanted to have the opportunity to shape people’s surroundings so they had a positive impact on their day-to-day lives.
Looking at your work online, what struck me is how different each of your creations is. How do you decide what will work? Where do you draw inspiration from?
There is a signature that’s evident in all of our work and that’s our use of finishes and detailing and the feeling we can create. But it’s definitely not the same design being churned out each time.
I’m very passionate about designing for people. Design shouldn’t be about forcing a particular aesthetic on someone. It is not my home I’m working on. I’m designing for my clients. We always start with the client’s brief and respond to that brief and then overlay it with what the property has to offer. I like to spend time with each client to find out what suits their lifestyle and aesthetic. Then we work out how to bring out the story of the home, especially in a heritage property, and influence and improve it to make it work for today’s living. No two people or spaces are the same so no two designs should be the same either.
What makes for good design?
The first thing about walking into any space should be how it makes us feel. Good interior design is about creating positive spaces filled with light and warmth and texture. It is also about the things that nurture and inspire us and tell our story so that we create the perfect reflection of ourselves. That’s why I like to understand our clients and try to express who they are and how they like to live.
When designing there is always a balance between beauty and function. It’s a hard one. Beauty shouldn’t be ostentatious. It can be about textures and warmth. It’s about the difference between when you enter a room and feel nothing and when you enter a room and let out a deep sigh but you can’t quite put your finger on why you feel like you do. That’s what I try to create – that sigh. But behind that though is a combination of scale, materials, function and other techniques that go into making a space.
What is your best design tip for anyone looking to style their own home to live in? How about for sale?
My best advice is to use a professional. I have heard so many horror stories about people who have done it themselves and it ends up taking three times as long and costs twice as much for a worse result.
If you’re styling your space and buying objects for your home make sure you love every one of them. I believe we should always surround ourselves with stuff that makes us feel good. If you’re looking at an artwork or a piece of furniture and you don’t have that immediate emotional reaction, don’t buy it.
Styling something to sell is obviously a little different because you’re thinking about what other people will like. You have to make other people imagine themselves in your space.
What has been your favourite project to work on?
Every single project holds my interest for different reasons. It could be the constraints we have to work under or the wonderful people we’re working for. That’s why I’m obsessed with what I do. As primarily a residential designer one project that really stands out for me was when we were asked to work on the Mater Hospital at Crows Nest, designing the Special Care Nursery. The brief was medical as well as technical and had so many criteria. The end-user was also completely different from our normal client: sick babies and worries parents. We needed to create a warm space that connected emotionally with people when they were extremely vulnerable and I was very flattered to have the chance to do that. The facility has been hugely successful.
You work all over the place, but you’ve done a lot of work in our local area. What do you love about Potts Point? What inspired you to set up your office in this area?
It’s the fabric of the place I love: the community, the architecture and the eclectic mix of people. I’ve lived and worked in Potts Point for 17 years now and I just couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. There is always someone on the street and there is this energy of people living their lives and doing wonderful things.
What I find interesting is that the demographic has changed so much in the time I have been here but the feeling and the energy really hasn’t, which is remarkable.
The Penthouse in the Soho Building, at 71/6 Greenknowe Ave is a pretty special property. Can you tell us a little about this project?
The Soho penthouse was unique because we actually got to add space on the top of an existing building. We put on a whole new level and achieved a three-bedroom/two-level apartment where once there had only been a one-bedder.
It really was an amazing project but it was a complex one. Potts Point is one of the most densely populated areas in the country and, understandably, there are so many planning rules that go with that. There were also issues with access.
In effect, we were creating a whole new space and that was a real pleasure and rare brief. We got to start from scratch and to amalgamate all of the best elements and desires from our clients in the local area. We created this beautiful palette of mixed materials, such as marble and timber floors and the best appliances. It was a real privilege to work on something so unique. In many ways, it was the perfect project.
What’s your favourite Potts Point Building?
I have so many that it’s impossible to come up with just one! Over the years I think I must have lived in nearly every single building in Potts Point and they’ve all been wonderful for one reason or another.
I really love the nostalgia and heritage of Manar. Kingscere, which was developed so many years ago, also remains one of my favourites. Challis Avenue has to be one of my favourite streets and also Rockwell Gardens always reminds me of one of the best times of my life.
What’s your favourite Potts Point cafe, restaurant or bar?
It’s hard to go past Fratelli Paradiso. It’s so charming and still so consistent even after 20 years. It always feels as though you’re coming home to family when you eat there. The boys who run it are divine and you’ll almost always run into a friend at another table. I also love the food and style at Cho Cho San as well as Bistro Rex… I could go on and on.